A McDonald's All-American and RSCI top-10 high school recruit
, Adonis Thomas had an undistinguished freshman campaign, replete with bouts of inconsistency and torn cartilage in his ankle that required surgery and cost him two months and 15 crucial last-season games. He managed to return and play limited minutes in the CUSA and NCAA Tournament, but a first-round upset at the hands of Saint Louis ended Memphis's season and ultimately resulted in Thomas deciding to forgo the NBA draft for his sophomore season.
Now with Will Barton and Wesley Witherspoon off to the pro ranks, scouts will be watching to see if Thomas can elevate his game and emerge as the star he was projected to be for his hometown Tigers.
On first glance, it's easy to see why Thomas was such a coveted prospect. He already looks the part of a prototypical NBA small forward physically standing between 6-6 to 6-7 with a long 7'0 wingspan and a rugged 241-pound frame. He is a good athlete, as well, who runs the floor in transition, moves well laterally, and is capable of making plays around the basket.
Despite his excellent physical profile, Thomas is not a particularly skilled, fluid or prolific offensive player, even if he does show some intriguing flashes of potential on occasion. An 18-year old freshman coming in to a veteran team, he averaged just 14.4 points per-40 in 24 minutes per game, which rates 44th of the 61 returning players who currently make up our top-100 prospect rankings.
Thomas made an impressive 41% of his 3-pointers last season, but that came on a fairly small sample size due to his prolonged absence midway through the season, only taking 37 attempts in 19 games, with five of his fifteen total makes coming in a single game, a blowout win over Austin Peay.
On film, he shows solid mechanics, although a bit on the rigid side, but has a relatively consistent release point. Despite his relative lack of perimeter attempts, he showed the potential to hit shots with his feet set and on the move, suggesting that he can develop into an effective perimeter scorer down the road.
He also shows a solid in-between game, particularly in terms of his ability to create space off the dribble and knock down pull-up jump shots. He made 52% of his 2-pointers and nearly 50% of his jump shots inside of the three-point line, although again on a limited sample size.
Scouts will want to see Thomas show more as a sophomore in terms of shot-creation skills, as he at times looked hesitant to attack the basket last year. He showed flashes of being able to take his man off of the dribble with his quick first step and powerful strides, often just barreling his way into the paint. Becoming a more fluid ball-handler, particularly with his left hand and overall ability to change speeds and directions with the ball, would certainly help him better operate in Memphis' half-court offense, but so too would adopting a more aggressive mentality in general. He averaged just 2.1 free throws per 40 minutes pace adjusted, which is a very low number considering his physical tools.
Considering Thomas' size and length, it's surprising that he was only able to grab 1.2 offensive rebounds per-40 minutes last season, which ranks the lowest of any small forward amongst our top 100 prospects. He doesn't fare much better as a defensive rebounder either, ranking as one of the worst rebounding small forward prospects in our database last season.
On defense, Thomas showed good lateral quickness, which combined with his strength and length, allowed him to be a solid perimeter defender even if his intensity level left a bit to be desired at times. His awareness and instincts on the defensive end looked like a work in progress during his freshman year, as he struggled at times to fight through screens and to close out on shooters without fouling. It is important to remember, however, that he is still very young, learning a new position on defense, oftentimes guarding bigger and more athletic power forwards, and seemingly possessing all of the right intangibles needed to get better. Therefore, scouts will be watching early-season match-ups against Louisville, Tennessee, and in the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament to see how he fares defending NBA-caliber perimeter players.
When evaluating Thomas, it is important to remember that he started just 8 games and played in only 19, the last three of which he played on his surgically repaired ankle. Furthermore, he was one of the youngest players in college basketball, not turning 19 until after the season ended, as is often praised for his strong intangibles. With that said, his freshman season did little to distinguish him from the pack, which makes this upcoming year especially important, as his team will need him to produce, and he'll no longer be able to rest on the laurels of his upside.